I have bad veins. Bad veins are hereditary and I got a walloping dose of it. This was made quite apparent to me during my pregnancies. The severity of my varicose veins associated with pregnancy got subsequently worse with each of my three pregnancies. I’m sharing my experiences and advice on How to Survive Severe Varicose Veins in Pregnancy Plus 15 Tips. By sharing my experiences and tips, my hope is this will help other pregnant mamas out there with varicose veins during pregnancy.
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Scroll down to see my 15 survival tips.
My Story with Tips on How to Survive Severe Varicose Veins in Pregnancy
My varicose veins appeared in my first pregnancy when I was 29 years old. Before I became pregnant, I did not have any varicose veins. As I mentioned above, my varicose veins were worse with each subsequent pregnancy. Plus, they reappeared sooner in each pregnancy. I carried three babies and the severity became extreme in my last pregnancy. I made it through that painful last pregnancy and I learned how to survive the condition.
My goal with this post is to help other pregnant moms plagued by this condition.
As a bonus at the end of my post, I include my story of the long-term effects of my severe varicose veins during pregnancy.
My Left Monster Foot
My varicose veins were concentrated on my left leg and varicose veins never appeared on my right leg at all. During my last pregnancy, they became very concentrated, purple, and swollen in my left foot. Varicose veins also appeared in my left thigh, but my foot was the most severe. I took to calling it my monster foot. The doctor categorized my varicose veins as severe, so I had to wear the compression stockings to prevent further progression, damage, clot formation, and pain.
The Dreaded Compression Stockings That Saved Me
It was a love-hate thing for me with the compression stockings. I needed them and they worked, but I dreaded wearing them.
It was an ordeal to wear the stockings every day, but I survived it. However, I really hated them.
Wearing the stockings shaped my pregnancies and my life during that time but I knew I had no choice but to wear them. I had to wear them all day, from the moment I woke up until I the moment I laid down in bed. If I didn’t, it was even more painful.
Pregnant mamas, those of you who have been told to wear the compression stockings, you may be tempted to skip them, but I’m advising to wear them. If you don’t wear them, it will get worse quicker. They are difficult to put on and uncomfortable, but a necessity. They were a necessity that saved me.
The stockings don’t eliminate the pain completely. Even with the compression stockings, it was still painful. However, they certainly helped a lot and I couldn’t have survived without them.
Varicose Veins are Painful
Varicose veins are very painful; plus, they throb and ache.
The more I was on my feet, the more they would throb and hurt. As the pregnancies went on, the time I was able to be on my feet before the pain flared up decreased. The period of time I could handle standing also decreased with each pregnancy. In the end of my last pregnancy, I couldn’t stand for more than thirty minutes before the pain became almost unbearable. I knew I needed to sit.
Even taking a shower was painful in my last pregnancy because when the water would hit my veins, it would hurt. I could not believe that the gentle spray from a shower could hurt them, but it did. It hurt a lot. The warm water also made the veins swell more which caused more pain. I always needed to lay down after my shower to help the blood to move out of the veins in my left foot.
Gravity is not your friend when you have severe varicose veins.
Tip: Elevate! Elevate to reduce pain.
Lay down or elevate your feet whenever pain starts to appear. The longer you wait to elevate your legs, the more it will hurt. Don’t delay, make yourself sit with your feet up.
As the pregnancy went on, I would have to sit with my legs elevated several times a day to relieve pain and to help get the blood out of my lower leg. Elevating my legs allowed the blood to redistribute and not pool in my foot veins. The physical position of elevating my legs was what helped the blood not pool in the veins. I used throw pillows to elevate it as high as I could.
I will not lie, this is hard to do if you have toddlers or preschoolers. We would watch tv or read books while I elevated my legs, and this worked well most of the time. When my kids would nap, I would always take time to sit with my legs elevated. But trust me, this was hard to do when I had so much housework and laundry waiting for me.
When I Had to Wear the Compression Stockings During My Pregnancies
In my first pregnancy, the varicose veins weren’t too bad, but they were bad enough that I had to start wearing the compression stockings even in the second trimester.
In my second two pregnancies, I had to start wearing the stockings in the first trimester as the veins popped out sooner. For me, it wasn’t a weight issue, but an increased blood volume issue because I gained the least amount of weight in my third pregnancy (I attribute this to running after my older two), yet the veins were the worst. Of course, my veins had suffered damage no doubt in my first two pregnancies, so this obviously contributed to how bad they were in my third pregnancy.
Wearing Full Over-the-Belly Compression Stockings
The first stockings they gave me were the full stockings that were to be worn over my pregnant belly like tights up to my waist. They were very tight and hard to get on, plus they were hot. I always wore pants over them because I didn’t want to look strange in shorts with tights on. When the weather was warm, I tried to stay in the air conditioning as much as possible.
Thigh High Compression Stockings and Roll-on Glue Were Lifesavers!
I also tried the thigh high stockings which were much more comfortable; plus, they were less hot which is important in pregnancy. The roll-0n glue was life-changing for me while pregnant.
The thigh high stockings were a lifesaver and I highly recommend them!
Wearing thigh high stockings was a giant lifesaver for me. This was especially true when it was hot out because I didn’t have another layer of clothing over my pregnant belly like I did when wearing the waist high stockings.
However, even though the thigh high stockings were more comfortable, they were annoying to wear because they would slide down all the time. I’m short at 5’3″; this contributed to the problem of how the thigh highs would slide down because my height determined I wear a size that wasn’t ideal for me. I was constantly pulling them up which is risky because this made it more likely I might get a hole in them as I yanked them up. A hole in the stockings compromises the level of compression so it is undesirable.
Getting a hole in the stockings was a huge deal also because my insurance company would only cover them after a certain passage of time before they would cover a replacement pair. So be careful and gentle with them. Check your insurance policy for coverage so you are aware of what they will pay for.
Roll-on Skin Glue
The clinic staff shared a fantastic tip with me about using roll-on skin glue to hold up the stockings. This roll-on glue is used by performers and dancers who want their costumes to stay in place. This worked very well for me, however insurance would not cover it, so I had to pay for it out of pocket.
I had to simply roll on the skin glue right before pulling the stockings up to the top of my thighs in time before the glue dried. It dried quickly so I did one leg at a time. The glue worked very well in keeping the stockings up for the day. If they started to slip, I would just roll on the glue again. It is in a bottle with a little ball at the top that would move as it was rolled along skin dispensing the glue.
The glue was unnoticeable on my skin and washed off easily with soap and water.
Tips for Putting on Compression Stockings
I had to put the stockings on before I got out of bed in the morning. Every stinking morning.
If I didn’t do this, the veins would fill immediately when I stood up and be even more painful for the day. The stockings gave the veins some support so they wouldn’t fill immediately. I could actually feel my veins fill when I stood up, so I had to put them on before getting out of bed every morning.
This was not easy because I always had a strong need to urinate in the morning due to being pregnant, however, I always had to wait. I also needed to eat almost immediately in my first pregnancy due to intense morning sickness, so I kept crackers in a container by my bed. This way I could eat something before putting on the stockings. If I didn’t eat, I would immediately begin to gag after opening my eyes until I ate some food.
I would gather up the whole length of the stocking in both hands and slide the tight stockings over my pointed toes and pull them up. Pull the stockings as taut as you can starting at your foot as you pull them on. Adding powder to my legs to make them more slippery was very helpful, but that meant getting powder on my bed sheets. I decided it was worth it because the powder helped so much. I simply brushed the powder off my bed as best I could.
There are also devices that can be purchased to help slip them on, but I never tried them.
Shower at Night Right Before Bed
Putting them on in the morning meant I needed to shower at night right before bed. I had to shower before bed because that was the only time I took the stockings off, it was too hard to get them on to take them off during the day. It just wasn’t worth it. Wearing those stockings shaped my entire schedule in this way.
If I showered in the morning, I would have to lay down for a while until the veins weren’t pooling blood in them before putting the stockings on. This was hard to plan for when I had toddlers, almost impossible, so I always showered at night.
Aspirin Therapy in Pregnancy for Clot Prevention
The doctor wanted me to do aspirin therapy for clot prevention due to the severity of my varicose veins in my last pregnancy. I needed to see a doctor and a midwife in my last pregnancy because I wanted a midwife for pregnancy, but I needed a doctor for my planned C-section.
Click the following link to read about my 2nd pregnancy: my second pregnancy ended in a C-section after being overdue, induced, induction stopped for excessively strong contractions, natural drug-free labor due to poor baby heart rate, labor with an epidural.
I didn’t do the aspirin therapy as the doctor wanted me to do for clot prevention. She agreed I could try not using aspirin, but her preference was for me to take it. Taking aspirin during pregnancy with severe varicose veins will help prevent clots from forming in pooled blood, but I didn’t want to take any medications during my pregnancy.
I was very much into a more pure and natural approach in my pregnancies and I steered clear of any medications. My midwife was ok with this plan, though she was on the verge of thinking I needed aspirin too. I held firm to my beliefs and it turned out ok.
Always check with your own midwife or doctor before taking medications while pregnant.
Other Ways Having Varicose Veins during My Pregnancies Shaped My Life
I was working as a nurse in a hospital during my pregnancies. I found nursing to be a hard job to do with having varicose veins during pregnancy because a nurse is always standing or walking around constantly as part of the job. The only times I sat were on my lunch break and when I was on the computer doing my charting. This eventually became a very difficult situation for me.
I worked only part-time, and that made it more doable than working full time would have been, however, I did have to quit working before the end of my second pregnancy per my midwife’s recommendation. Honestly, in the end, it became very painful to stand and walk for long periods so even though I had kids at home to take care of being at home was easier than being at work. While at home, I was able to sit more with my feet elevated than I could at work.
I couldn’t go swimming during my pregnancies because I always had to wear the compression stockings. I would have been too embarrassed to wear stockings under a swimming suit, so I never swam during my pregnancies.
Related post: The Importance of Postpartum Supplementation
My favorite sleep sack! I used it for all three of my boys:)
Recap of 15 Tips to Help You Survive Having Varicose Veins During Pregnancy:
1). Allow time to sit with your feet propped up by throw pillows several times a day. Grabbing books, a sippy cup for kids, water for yourself, and a snack for kids (and yourself) gives you something to do while sitting. Keep a basket near your couch stocked with little toys and books to assist with enabling you to sit for longer periods of time.
2). Using baby powder will help the compression stockings slide on. I would sit on my bed and sprinkle the powder across my legs to make my legs more slippery, so it was easier to get the super tight stockings on. Be sure to set the baby powder and stockings next to your bed so you can reach them without having to stand up.
4). Get the thigh high compression stockings because they are more comfortable and less hot to wear.
5). Use Roll-on Skin Glue to keep thigh high stockings up.
6). Have at least two pairs of compression stockings so you can wear one pair and wash the other. I always washed them out in my bathroom sink in soapy water (I used some dish soap that I kept in my bathroom) and let them air dry overnight. Insurance plans determine how many stockings you can have and when they will cover replacements pairs, so we are all at the mercy of insurance companies. It was very helpful to have two pairs, so it would be helpful to get a second pair even if you buy it yourself.
7). Shower before going to bed. Doing this allowed me to lay down immediately after my shower. Showering at night also worked well because I was already showered so I could put the stockings on before getting out of bed in the morning.
8). Take shorter showers to minimize the swelling of the veins from the warm water.
9). Avoid all day walking activities if you can. I avoided places like the zoo in the end of my pregnancies and chose other activities to do with my family instead, especially while in the third trimester.
10). Stay inside when it’s hot weather. Wearing the stockings plus pants is very hot so stay in the air conditioning when it is hot outside.
11). Once they are on for the day, leave the stockings on until bedtime because they are so hard to put on with a pregnant belly. Plus, I found taking them off and walking around will allow veins to fill and swell which will make putting them back on again that much harder.
12). Let others help you. If your significant other, family, or friends offer to help, accept it. You need help for your own health as well as the health of your baby.
13). Try not to lift heavy things to avoid more stress on varicose veins.
14.) Listen to your doctor or midwife. Discuss your feelings and come to a mutually agreeable plan based on your own situation and health issues.
15). The compression stockings wear out so get new ones for each pregnancy. I was always told not to reuse them from a previous pregnancy because they lose their strength of compression through time.
Long-Term Effects of Varicose Veins during Pregnancy
Varicose Veins After Pregnancy
My doctor and midwife were completely convinced my varicose veins would continue to be severe even after I was done being pregnant. I was told I shouldn’t work as a nurse anymore and I should only work at a job where I would spend less time on my feet.
They were wrong about the severity continuing after my pregnancies were done, though I’m sure this is not the case for everyone with severe varicose veins. I think I just got lucky. My leg veins improved dramatically even just a few days after I gave birth each time, however, I do have some long-term effects. But I’m happy to say the long-term effects are so much better than the doctor and midwife predicted.
Honestly, they had me very scared with talk of many the painful surgeries I would need postpartum. I ended up needing treatment, but not surgery.
I have very few visible varicose veins on my left leg and foot now, however, each month when I menstruate, I feel them swell a bit. The appearance of my foot has improved immensely which I’m very happy about.
One long-term effect that is harder to deal with is my left shin is wider than my right by about a ¾ inch diameter. While this is not obvious visually, it is a hardship for me when doing activities like skiing or rollerblading because my legs are different sizes so the equipment doesn’t fit properly. This often causes me pain, especially when wearing ski boots.
Irregular Shaped Vein Still Causes Me Pain
After several years after giving birth for the last time, I began to feel pain in my left leg when I would lay on my left side, so I went to visit the doctor. They did an ultrasound on my leg and found the vein to be in a corkscrew configuration, so the only treatment was to kill the vein by injecting it with a medication to kill off the vein. This was the older way of dealing with such veins (laser is more common now), but due to the corkscrew configuration, it was the only treatment possible for me.
This did work for a while, but recently I’ve started to feel pain again while laying on my left side again, so I think the killed vein has reopened. The doctor told me the killed vein could reopen. I will need to go back for the treatment again to kill off the vein. This will be an ongoing health concern for me.
My doctor advised me to wear compression stockings on airplanes to help prevent blood from pooling in my feet.
I Sincerely Hope My Tips Will Help Those of You Plagued by This Condition
I sincerely hope my tips and experience will help those of you who are suffering from varicose veins in pregnancy. Severe varicose veins in pregnancy are very painful, and many people may not understand how painful it is for you. Explain it to them so they understand and help you.
Good luck and I wish you and your baby all the best!
One more tip I’d like to share:
You need a great camera as a mom. This is the one we have and I LOVE it! We bought it before I began this blog and I’m so happy we did because it takes wonderful photos. Running this blog requires a great camera, and I would have bought this DSLR just for the blog, but I was lucky and we already had purchased it for family and trip photos. I also recently bought an EF 50 mm f/1.8 STM lense which has improved my photos immensely!! (Example: Apple Cinnamon Biscuit Bundt Bread and English Muffin Bread Veggie Quiche ) I always like to hear if someone likes something before I buy it, and this camera package and lense are totally worth it:)
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